Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Why I blog

Many years ago I would never have thought about doing a blog. I was always a very private person, more of an introvert. When I opened one with Word Press in 2011 I left it idle for a whole year without posting anything publicly. I didn’t think I wanted to open myself up to the world out there with my personal stuff. My first draft was never posted. It sat in the draft folder for a whole year. I was still grieving over having lost my dog to an incurable disease after spending ten wonderful years with him. The decision to have him euthanized rather than suffer through his illness was still too painful to even share and I wondered if I could ever feel open enough to share the things that touched my soul so deeply. Except for some articles, poems and stories that were published by a traditional publisher prior to that time I felt that a blog would require more of myself than I was willing to share.

When I finally felt ready to go public and come out of my introverted self, I opened up other social media accounts; Facebook and Twitter. I saw the way others posted with such candor and graphic accounts of their lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. I said to myself, Do I really want to do this? Expose myself to strangers? Will anyone care what I have to say, or write? Will my poems or stories resonate with anyone out there? Yet, I could not deny how much I loved to write, and thought at least if I put it out there, be bold enough to bare my soul, share my life, maybe I have something to offer. People are hurting, from things we don’t know anything about. What if a kind word from someone, who cared enough to share encouraging thoughts, words, or prayers was enough to make a difference? Wouldn’t it be worth it, if someone was helped by something I contributed via my blog, Facebook or Twitter?

The number of ‘likes’, ‘follows’, or ‘friends’ one gains is not important if another one who reads it is encouraged or helped by what is shared. A story, post or picture does not have to be sensational. It doesn’t have to be a part of a photo posting competition or word prompt to see who posts the best. I don’t care to advertise how many ‘follows’ or ‘likes’ I have to know that my ‘reflections’ and perspective on things are appreciated by someone. Just sending it out there is all that really matters. It is why I blog.

______________

Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

Posted July 10, 2017 by Joyce in blogging, My Writings, Writing

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Remembering 9-11

Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson, 1998

World Trade Center Twin Towers, New York City, April 1998

It was April 1998, when my husband, Wayne and I took this vacation, and these pictures.  We flew into New York City to Laguardia airport on a weekday, picked up a rental car and traveled north up to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, across upper New York to Niagara Falls, down through Pennsylvania, in to Maryland, Washington D.C.,  Delaware and back into New York City and Staten Island before leaving for home from Laguardia. It was a whirlwind trip in nine days as we covered all of the upper northeast and New England from the east side to the west and back again in a loop.

While in New York City those final three days we took a ferry-boat over to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Battery Park. As we toured scenic sights of Manhattan taking pictures we stood in front of a memorial at Battery Park dedicated to the early immigrants who came ashore to the U.S., processed through Castle Gardens there before Ellis Island opened up in 1892.  It was a very emotional time for me as I walked about that park, looking up at the Statue of Liberty and wondering what the immigrants thought, what they saw when arriving through the portals of our country’s immigration processing centers.

My grandfather and his family were Germans who came over from Odessa, Russia, and were processed through Castle Gardens like thousands of others. Enduring hardships, making sacrifices to come over to America immigrants by the thousands came over on ships, hopeful to begin a new life here. They were as diverse in color of skin, religion, faith, occupation, and status in life as those in our country today. But, the one thing that bound them all together was their desire to begin a new life in a better place  than the one they had come from, and live it in freedom away from tyranny, and anarchy. Poor, destitute, seeking a new life in a country offering so much, to those having so little, they came, hopeful, committed, and excited to become an American.

New York was at that time the primary gateway into America. The hope of prosperity, the right to choose their own destiny, occupation and the promise of an education gave them a sense of purpose without rules and regulations enforced upon them by a dictator.

My grandfather was only three years old when they immigrated. His greatest dream was to become a naturalized citizen and vote in a real election for his country’s president. He worked hard, got an education and cherished every day and moment he had in life to be all he could be with God’s help.

As I stood in front of Battery Park taking pictures I was amazed at how tall and large the Twin Towers of the WTC were, as  they towered above all other skyscrapers in Manhattan. Such a stark contrast to all the rest of those in the skyline they were like beacons to our country’s business district,  icons of the American dream of success.

Who would have believed that just a few short years later we would see the annihilation and obliteration of the World Trade Centers’ Twin Towers, and attempts made to destroy our country’s capitol, and the pentagon as well?  The horrific event on September 11, 2001 killing almost 3,000 people will live forever in our memory and hearts.

As Americans we owe a debt we can never repay to our military servicemen and women  for what they did so we can have this freedom. Having fought, or died in wars protecting it we can only support them, honor them, pray for them, and thank them for their sacrifice, and service. This is my way of paying tribute to them, to our firefighters, and police officers for what they did then, and do now to protect our lives and freedom here in the U.S.

May we never forget.

****************

I am re-posting this blog post today, in commemoration of the fourteenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York city.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

The Written Word


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1848 – The printing year of this antiquated Bible. I was recently given this bible from someone. I love rare and antique books, and collecting classics.

My own study NIV Bible I use today

My own personal study NIV Bible

 

From quill to papyrus, or pen to paper

from cable to typewriter, to keyboard device

words have traveled down through the ages of time

written on scrolls, copied, or transcribed;

they came to be an integral tool expressing our voice

like a sonnet of tales, fabled or true,

not always believed, nor always rhymed.

But, poet or storyteller, essayist too,

memoirist, or scribe; their words, old or new;

if rewarded publication on printed page,

and kept in circulation via demand or reprint

they filled libraries, bookstores, institutions and schools.

But, there is one over all I treasure most

among my revered collected few.

It is God’s words and works within

one bound volume by writers He chose

to record and document all they knew.

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2015

The right word at the right time

As a writer our words can be profound, even memorable, but it is our life lived before others that will have the greatest impact. If what we write is not remembered, saved or shared by the reader then maybe how we respond and communicate back to that one might. We may never know what the reader is getting from anything we write if they do not leave a comment, but just to know that what we write, share and post can be of a positive, encouraging word to one at just the right time is something worth striving for; the right word and message to the one who needs or needed it at just that opportune time. And what about those who never comment, give feedback, ‘follow’ or ‘like’ what we’ve written? It doesn’t really matter if what we write or wrote was just the right word or post for that time. A word posted or written for a particular time or season delivered the right way does matter. It is something I care about as a writer.

Writing can also entertain just for the sake of the reader’s enjoyment. I love to entertain that way with whimsical poems or stories and have fun with them while writing them. Then there are just times when I want to incorporate a message of faith, encouragement, hope or support in something I write and send out. If I have asked God to help me know what to write, and ask Him to bless it and to bless the reader receiving it I am confident that it has gone to that one who needed it that day. That is worth it all.

_____________

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

Posted May 3, 2015 by Joyce in blogging, Faith, My Writings, Writing

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AND HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED

AND HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED

Nestled snugly to her breasts the baby wrapped in cloth

was cradled in his mother’s arms, her voice comforting and soft.

The beating of her heart, her milk and warm embrace

left him feeling so content when he looked into her face.

Livestock gathered near to ward off wind and chill;

They shared their sheltered space quiet, cold and still.

Heaven’s glory filled the skies immersing them in joy.

Radiant beams of light gushed towards the baby boy.

The story of his birth was heard throughout the land,

“The prophesied Messiah is born in Bethlehem.”

People came from all around to see the child king,

“Where is he that is born those angels about him sing?”

There was much rejoicing as shepherds ran to see

the baby born to the world, the prophesied to be.

Magi heard the news traveling from places far

with gifts for the baby king guided by the star.

Kneeling before the Savior they stretched out hands in praise;

God’s unfolding gift of love, how awesome His wondrous ways.

Mary pondered all these things and marveled how, that He

from one; a virgin came the Son of God, Jesus, Majesty.

***********

MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALL!  

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

Footnotes: Although I published this post last Christmas I am re-posting it again with my wishes to all for a very blessed and wonderful Christmas and a happy new year in 2015.

Where lies the remains of Annie C. Maguire

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Portland Head lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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Memorial to the capsized British vessel, Annie C. Maguire, 1886

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mist roles in from a cold, dark sea.

Waves kick up, thrashing the British barque.

Wind gusts rip sails from the bowing masthead.

A deep guttural sound bellows to the surface from under the ship’s hull.

She hits rock, breaking apart on impact.

Caught in her rigging she turns and twists in its knotted embrace. 

The Annie Maguire drifts, its SOS not acknowledged.

Were there none to hear her distress signals sent?

Darkness descends.

A bullhorn sounds, and the cone-shaped glow of light emerges.

The lighthouse; a beacon to the capsized ship and crew.

______________

Footnotes: Mystery surrounds the capsized Annie C. Maguire British vessel. Miraculously her crew was saved and rescued on Christmas Eve, 1886, when the ship went aground during a storm, but the ship’s remains were never recovered. You can find images and information on this vessel and story here

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

 


 

 

 

Words, Words, I Need More Words

This is my response to The Daily Post, Writers’ Block Party

WORDS, WORDS, I NEED MORE WORDS

When words don’t come

and I wonder why

for all the words

there are. I’ll try

to write until

I’m out of words

and look for more

many more words.

There in this world

are words that be

found richly packed

in books for me,

words that tell

stories you see

so write I shall

forever until

there’s no more words

to write and fill

page after page

of  words written by me.

_____________

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Boldly posting whatever pops to mind

Ever wondered when on a social media or blogging site how some posts just appear in the feed as if they had nothing else to say? Yet they post whatever comes to mind, obviously with little forethought? One can endure it, like it, ignore it, move on, hide it from your timeline, or log off. But, one can not always avoid it being splashed across the screen in front of their face while trying to get updates on friends, posting, or sharing. One might think, ‘What was that person thinking posting that stuff?’ But, some will say, ‘Everyone has the right to post and say or do whatever he wants.’ Right? Sure. You bet. We don’t have to like it, read it or respond to it. But, social media sites have now become places where it can be a dumping ground with disgusting pics, foul language in candid posts that expose it all. Their pics and posts have become their now personified ‘voice’.

When I first activated my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Google, etc., etc.) I vowed that when and what I posted, commented on, or responded to would have only encouraging, uplifting comments, photos, and words so that I would never regret posting or worry where they ended up like on the screen of a potential employer, literary agent or publisher, writing instructor, or even just a ‘real friend’ whom I valued too much to ever shock them, disappoint them, question or doubt our friendship.

OK. So anything goes and people do and say what they want.  If that stuff floats their boat so be it. In the long run, later on their posts and pics might sink their boat. One can entertain, gripe or complain, use it as a platform for their political agenda of sorts, share or shout whatever they want. Or one can use it to teach or train, bless, help or encourage, share what really matters, offer prayers of support, or just post a kind word for someone whose having a bad day and needing a ‘friend’ to just respond in a kind way. The latter is the kind of blogger, ‘friend’, or tweeter I would rather be, so I will not have to worry about things out there floating around in cyber space that one day comes back to bite me, and haunt me for the rest of my life.

___________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Posted July 13, 2014 by Joyce in My Writings, Writing

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Well-chosen words…

Good writing is like

planting seeds in fertile soil;

well-chosen words placed

where they are most effective

produce the desired results

________________

The above poem tells what I try to achieve with my writing, but am not always sure I am successful. It is what I have been striving for whenever I write anything; to choose my words well, place them where they do the most good and can be easily understood, interpreted and be concise.  At times it would seem as if I revise or edit more often than necessary. But, often when I think I’m finished I reread it again and suddenly find a spelling error or maybe I will feel a meaning is not expressed well enough for some and I wonder if readers can get exactly just what I was trying to say, and I start over again. A spelling error or word left out at times that I discover later gets frustrating when I find it after I have already posted and have to go back, correct, edit, re-post or update.

Then there is the other thing that totally frustrates me. I have a deteriorating and advancing vision problem and eye disease necessitating me to use about two or so different strength reading glasses at times to be able to see clearly what I am reading, typing, posting and writing. It is called AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration).  It is not so uncommon with people as they get older, but is something that un-nerves me when wanting to get a written piece right and not discover errors later. Even using a recipe when I cook or bake requires close attention and the stronger reader glasses.

So, if I find a misspelled word or one left out or one used incorrectly its back to editing or revising again before I get it right.  And if a reader or writer finds it or wishes to correct me that’s OK too, as I appreciate good feedback. Thanks.  Now, I will once again proofread this before posting. 🙂

________________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Sometimes drawing a blank_____?

 

 

Sometimes my mind will draw a blank

when words don’t come; I cannot make

things come together and thus create.

Where to begin when ideas don’t form

I patiently wait the inspiration,

a flow of thoughts, a spark or prompt

whereby the process can begin,

but given time, it will come

even if it’s just to rhyme.

_____________

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)


Posted May 5, 2014 by Joyce in My Writings, Poems, poetry, Writing

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To seek…

scan0006

To seek,

to find,

to nurture

the mind;

Still yet, I

yearn to learn

___________

The above poem was published in the anthology book, Poems to Remember (Volume II) in the Spring of 1991 by The Southern Poetry Assoc., Pass Christian, MS.

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Remembering a time in life before computers

There was a time and a place when my whims, moods or spontaneity dictated my day, the things I did or felt, and they were more carefree. But, that was when I was a child, or a teenager with fewer frustrations in life.  But, those days are long gone now that I know what it feels like to be a ‘baby boomer’, a senior watching the days and years pass all too quickly. I now work much harder to keep my brain sharp, my vision and hearing, and know that when I have laid down my car keys at the end of the day I can remember where to find them again the next day. I want to remember that I had my coffee pot filled and readied for the new day; not find water spilling out of its already filled reservoir, and that I remembered to write down appointments on my calendar. The list goes on.

Today, I treasure every memory I can recall, and every place I found serenity or pleasure wishing to return once more just to enjoy it again and savor the moment. I value every new idea my brain can invent or create, every word I can still spell or define, every sunset that merges into twilight and greets a new dawn upon its waking hours. It is another day I anticipate hoping for a clear head, a mug of hot coffee, and a working viable computer before me without crashes, frustrations and long lists of updates to install before my brain crashes and I forget what I was going to write or where I saved my file. I believe writing is one of those things that helps keep my mind sharp, but computers that confuse it. But, during the last full week it was my desktop computer that took the crash, and I had to start over with a clear head, some ingenuity and reload all of my Windows software. It was probably the jumbled up order I ‘arranged’ my docs and files in the first place that threw my trusty old desktop into a confused tailspin. 🙂 But, it is that PC where I do all my ‘creative’ stuff.  But, I will see how my old desktop performs under a newly rebuilt ‘engine’.  I have all the same files and programs on my newer working laptop, but it is my desktop that took the hit, and where I feel the most at home working on.

I am now working on the last few and final chapters of, The Informant’s Agenda, but it will need more writing and  editing before the story is finished  and I can finally look into publishing options, so might be a while before I can post those last few chapters, but for the time being I will work on other material and posts to add in between those chapters. Thank you to those who are following it. The comments and feedback have been so appreciated.

________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Posted March 23, 2014 by Joyce in My Writings, Writing

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The Night Before Christmas

Santa Claus

Santa Claus (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)


It was the night before Christmas when asleep in our house

I awoke with the sound of my snoring spouse.

I tried to sleep snuggled down in my bed.

But, it was no use; even covered my head.

So, I went to the kitchen, and put on the kettle,

to brew me some tea, and sit down to settle.

With my cup and a book I headed for my chair.

Then I heard a noise that gave me a scare.

What did I just see? I stopped to stare.

There plopped old Santa sitting astride

a floor full of toys with instructions beside.

A puzzled expression creased his dimpled, flushed face.

He looked so natural by the fireplace.

His round robust frame looked to pop like a cork,

when hearing my steps from the kitchen I came.

With no place to hide, and caught in his folly

he lumbered up getting caught in the holly.

Fallen from the mantle the garland like wreath

fell to his feet with the cookies beneath.

Spread out on the floor lay assorted parts,

nuts and bolts, tools and more.

But, he went to work assembling the toys;

a bicycle, a scooter, and robot for the boys.

A doll house, a tea set he checked off his list,

things my kids said, “Please don’t forget.”

In spite of the sight and comical scene,

He left such a mess I will have to clean.

But, I tiptoed away with my cup of tea

to give old Santa sprawled out by the tree

space to work, for he looked so perplexed.

Now, I vaguely remember falling asleep

curled up in my chair not hearing a peep.

When I woke in the morn on Christmas day

I tried to remember, Did I really see Santa,

Or did I just dream about a jolly old man,

who happened this way? Then I heard my kids squeal

with excitement and say, “Mom! Come see

what Santa brought us today.”

***********

Poem by: Joyce E. Johnson – 2012


Same blog; new look

For those who have clicked, looked and tried to find my old ‘header’ photo at the top, or my old profile ‘gr avatar’ photo from before, it is a bit changed and different looking. My top photo is a favorite one I took on a vacation many years ago to the New England states. if looking a bit compressed because I could not bear to crop it. 🙂 I did some maintenance work on the site with archives, story chapters, etc. to make things easier to find for those following either or any of the fiction stories, short and long. I do not have a definite scheduling plan set on my blog, but am trying to maintain a tentative one by posting at least twice a week, once in the middle of the week on Wednesdays, and again on Saturday or Sunday. My plan presently is to post a chapter each week to my WIP story, The Informant’s Agenda, which is the story I am more focused on right now. And, I will post at least one of another kind of post, such as a photo, poem, essay or misc. post during the middle of the week.

There are times though when ‘life happens’ and we can get behind, need to catch up, take a break, reset priorities, or we struggle trying, getting stressed out along the way, Maybe other bloggers and writers are like that at times. and the set schedule of posting might take a back seat to my other priorities. I am a wife to my husband of 47 years, a mother, grandmother, am involved in my church, and volunteer time with seniors and elderly residents at assisted living centers and nursing homes to help with those older than myself.  🙂   My family too, always comes first as I am committed to them and other obligations. My time though at my computers and my writing is nothing less than an obsession, as I love to write, but at times need to reset my priorities to give more of myself to others. It is what helps to keep a balance in my life.

But, who knows. There might also be a time when I have something that I want to post right away, because the mood moves me to go with the spontaneity of the moment and I am eager to share it, and cannot wait. 🙂 I appreciate every reader, blogger and follower here, and those too who follow or read my posts via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google, and their comments are always welcome. Thank you, to all who have visited or follow me.

And so without waiting another day or time, I am in one of those spontaneous moments and hope you enjoy my next newly created little ‘limerick’ story to follow this post.

______________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

Posted November 1, 2013 by Joyce in Uncategorized, Writing

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Not Always What It Seems

Not Always What It Seems

You thought life good: things came together,

when all of a sudden there comes a time

they are not what you hoped,

not what they seem.

You thought it would work out;

come together like a sought after dream.

But, whether a hunch, or premonition of sorts,

you’ve come to doubt your luck will hold.

And then it happens: your plans go awry.

There you are, where you hoped not to be,

in the middle of a mess, and you ask ‘Why?’

Was it by choice you wound up here,

or a stroke of bad luck?

You moan and cry.

But, a new day dawns,

 there’s a new sunrise.

So smile,

till your world smiles back.

___________

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)


Posted August 11, 2013 by Joyce in Inspirational Poems, Poems, Word Prompt, Writing

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The making and telling of story: WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Members of the military are attempting to keep...

Members of the military are attempting to keep Vietnam War protesters under control. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a story about young adults living in the sixties era of the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia, 1965-1975. It is about a ‘coming of age’ generation, across the country holding protest demonstrations against the war,  rebelling against the ‘establishment’ of rules and regulations, experimenting with pot, ‘free love,’ and illegal abortions. It is about those who swarmed to the Beatles concerts, danced and rocked to the tunes of popular groups and singers at rock concerts like Woodstock.

When Dark Closes In tells the story of Jennifer, Scott and their friends who lived, loved, fought and died during that time, succumbing to  the shadows of a dark period in history. But, from out of the darkness comes a light of hope and redemption for some whose lives will be forever changed from that moment on.

In two chapters posted Jennifer was coping with an unplanned pregnancy and considering an abortion. In 1966 abortion was illegal in every state. She was Catholic, unmarried, a college student, and her baby’s father waited to hear if he would be sent off to war in Vietnam. Those were traumatic times to live in. The choices and decisions made by the youth were often made in haste, with little thought to the circumstances. Other decisions made concerning the war, our military and troop buildup were made by our president, his administration, and congress. It caused division, unrest, war protests. Many dodged the war to run off to Canada where they could hide and blend in with the masses there, some never returning to the U.S. to face the consequences.

These characters, their lives and choices made are not a reflection of my personal views or perspective, although my husband and I were ourselves nineteen in 1966, living with our own choices, but instead they are those of the characters created for the story. All feedback and comments on this story, or any chapter posted are welcome. Comments are helpful to know the thoughts, opinions expressed and views of another, but do not influence my own on the way I tell the story. I hope you enjoy/have enjoyed reading it. It is a current work in progress, but also one I have been writing and editing for many years, recently renamed and revised with the posted chapters and prologue, all of which may be found under the category and menu heading of, When Dark Closes In.

_________________

Joyce E. Johnson

Peaceful Waters


Peaceful waters flow

Lapping at the river’s edge

Calms spirit and soul

_____________

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

The Informant’s Agenda – Chapter I

English: A impression from the Donskoy monaste...

THE INFORMANT’S AGENDA”

Transnistria, Moldova

Chapter One

 The car was gone. Not a sound or sign anywhere of Irina. Just a dead, eerie silence. Like the graves I had just left.

After searching the grounds, the road, all where I had walked I pulled out my cell phone and checked for new messages. There were none, so scrolled my directory, punched her number and waited. It went to voicemail, so left a message. “Irina! Where are you? Where did you go? I’m walking back, southwest towards Grigoriopol, the direction we came. Did you go back to town, or look for a potty? Or did you decide it a good time to go for coffee? Look, I’m sorry I took so long. Call me! Please!” My phone showed weak signals, and needed recharging.

 “Ok, Irina, where have you disappeared to? This is not funny.” I said to myself. Thinking out loud was little comfort.

Stay calm. Think. Don’t panic.

A mile further down the road was an old pickup, parked on the shoulder.

Thumping! Clanging!”

What is that?!

The sound came from the direction of the truck.    

Feeling exposed, I moved over to the opposite side of the road. Because of me, I realized we would miss our four-o-clock appointment with the consulate of Odessa.

There was no one in the truck that I could see, but the noise boomed across the otherwise quiet steppes.

Banging! Pounding!” It resonated in my ears, pinging off the side of my brain.

Inquiring from a complete stranger about Irina, or her car did not seem a good idea, so I just walked on, hoping the invisible would not notice me. When I looked back there was only a shadow.

People warned me about traveling alone in this country.

Feeling as if there were eyes on my back at every turn did not help to establish a note of trust or confidence. Some, I think seemed too interested in me. Others stood stone still; looking as if they did not comprehend anything I said.

Experience taught me how to blend in, merge with the masses, not look like a lone duck in a big pond. It was easy to dress like a Russian. But speak like one? Without an accent or fluent dialect I was not very convincing. When I asked questions or needed directions I knew I sounded too much like an American tourist. But, dressed in my most comfortable ‘threads,’ – faded blue jeans, and tee shirts – I looked like everyone else here, except when wearing my red fleece jacket with the, “Go Big Red” logo advertising my alma mater, UN, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Adding to my present predicament was the wheeled backpack I hauled around, loaded with notebooks, laptop, and cameras. Except for the video cams and digitized equipment that went with my job I looked much like a university student in the former Soviet Bloc countries.

A vehicle coming up the road behind me spewed gravel as it got closer.

Finally. It’s about time. Irina?

It was instead a late-model black sedan I’d not seen before. As it neared, the pickup now with its driver behind the wheel rumbled out onto the road veering into the car’s path at an odd angle. Rapid, successive beeps from the car horn came too late.

The sudden contact of metal to metal brought both vehicles to a crashing halt. The left front bumper of the old pickup smashed in the front right door and fender, headlight and trim on the car, leaving broken glass and bits of mangled parts scattered across the road.

The truck driver got out and ambled over to the sedan to survey the damage. The red pickup, rusty and dented looked no worse than before.

But, the car was a mangled mess of twisted metal and glass. The windshield shattered into innumerable tiny pieces spilling out over the hood. The air bag appeared to release on impact. Hands clawed at the inflatable device compressing it as if wedged in a vice. Soon after, the driver’s side door was pushed open and a man stepped out. He pulled off his dark glasses, massaged his nose and forehead, then began to curse and swear with words recognized in any language. He was dressed in blue jeans, black shirt and leather jacket. Something about him looked familiar. Then, I remembered where and when I’d seen him.

Watching it all from where I stood, I felt vulnerable, unsure what to do.

It was difficult to hear the exchange between them. But, there was no mistaking the anger of the sedan’s driver. When finished with his ranting, he pulled out a cell phone from his pocket.

Jumping down into a weedy embankment I pulled my wheeled bag down behind me hoping neither man would notice, or care, that their only witness was hurrying away from the scene of an accident.

The truck driver wore wrinkled worn pants cuffed an inch or so above old boots, a red plaid flannel shirt with sleeves rolled up on long lanky arms. Tall, with thinning gray hair he didn’t look injured, but rather agile for an older man.

Like a frightened rabbit I turned and headed down along the road on the uneven terrain. It was awkward with my bag, but I wanted only to get back to Grigoriopol, to my room at Olga’s Inn.

The road forked ahead about a half mile. When Irina and I came down the road earlier, I paid little attention to the turns she made as we traveled east into Transnistria. We’d headed northeast when we passed through old Colosova Village, before pulling into the cemetery grounds past the former collective farms. Now, they looked all but abandoned. Dry, barren fields, weeds growing wild, nothing graded: all looked like it had not seen a plow or grader in decades. No legible road signs or identifying marks remained.

My bag was bulkier now, with my discovery.

 Irina reminded me we had no time to spare. But, I protested.

“Monica, we don’t have time for another cemetery this morning. We can’t be late for our 4:00 appointment at the consulate’s office. We need to allow time to get back to Grigoriopol for you to change, unless you want to walk in smelling like the ground under those graves.”

“I know, but, I need more time to look for those on my lists, and photograph the graves. Can’t we reschedule the appointment?”

“Maybe. They just don’t want us to deviate from our itinerary. That is, if you want to get into the archives when they’re open for research. Besides, I am responsible for keeping us on schedule and for any changes made. As the official representative assigned to you I have to log in the places we go, the dates and times, and fill out reports for my superiors.”

“I would just like to look through this one cemetery. I will not be long. You can wait in the car, if you like. I’ll meet you back there in an hour or so. I promise.” I told her.

She sighed, looking clearly upset with me, checked the time on her watch, nodded and replied. “OK. I’ll spare you an hour. But, that’s all. And, remember that other section beside it is closed, fenced off and boarded up. You can’t be trespassing over there.”

“OK. Just the cemetery grounds, then.”

It was my job as an archivist to videotape, note and photograph what was here. But, I was determined to search once more for their graves. Her constant, annoying presence got on my nerves, so I just walked away with her waiting impatiently by the car, then headed for the old, iron gate.

Now, as the air turned colder, and graying clouds moved in, covering the late afternoon sun I realized I had placed myself, and maybe my assignment here in jeopardy.

Winds kicked up refuse blowing it across the Russian steppes. “And, here I stand, alone out on a dirt road with a map and compass looking for a way back to town.” I said aloud, again talking to myself.

As I trudged on with my cumbersome bag, my thoughts drifted back years earlier to

another place, another time, another gravesite when I stood with my family mourning our loss.

There was never a thought I would be the genealogist type, as I had no interest, experience or, ambition for such a job.

Then I read his letter, left for me. “Monica. It is not the erected monument of the deceased that is important, but the legacy they leave behind of the unseen that matters. It is what we can share with the next generation, and preserve what is found in those having lived before us.”

 It was his request that I preserve ours, and my promise to him to honor it.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

Bridging our lives, together – Forty-seven years, today


Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson


 BRIDGING OUR LIVES, TOGETHER

Like flood waters rushing beneath a bridge,

so too have the years, behind us raced by.

We think back to a moment in time, and say,

“Do you remember that? The place?

What we did, where we were, the day?”

Our children we raised together, and prayed

through every situation, the happy, and sad.

Albums and boxes are full of those times;

the photos and mementoes of places we’ve gone,

of our children born, grown, and raised,

the vacations taken, miles traveled and logged,

family dinners, holidays, grandchildren’s births.

Even the spontaneous and randomly unplanned,

those we look back as if they happened today.

All is recorded in the margins of our lives,

filled in the pages of journals, and poems.

So, it is on this momentous day and time

We stand here blessed on that bridge of life

Thankful we can remember all gone by.

_____________

poem by: Joyce E. Johnson (July 16, 2013)

Happy wedding anniversary to my husband, Wayne

with love, on our 47 years of marriage, today (July 16, 2013)

______________________


When Dark Closes In, Chapter IX, – ‘Scott’

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN (Historical Fiction)

Scott

Chapter IX

1967 – Saigon, Vietnam

“I could really jack up the cost of this job if I did it at home in my uncle’s garage. But here, I can’t collect, or set my own hours. At least the parts and coveralls are courtesy of the Army. You think they appreciate our expertise, Mac?”

A soldier hunched over machine parts, cleaning and oiling. “Hey man, we’re government commodities now. Dispensable and replaceable, you know?”

The Lieutenant’s voice boomed from across the road. “Bradley! You finished with that jeep, yet?”

“Almost sir.” he called back. Starting up the motor he listened to the sound. “Sounds better now, sir. She sputters a little, but still got some life in her. Till her sweet rump gets all shot up, and scattered to parts unknown.” he added.

“What was that?” asked the lieutenant.

“Uh, nothing, sir! Just thinking out loud. Do you think I could be relieved now to go get some dinner?”

“Yea, knock off.” The lieutenant looked at his watch. “Report back in two hours.”

“Thank you, sir.” Scott saluted and walked down the road to a café frequented by the military. Chopsticks and soy sauce were laid on a small table tucked in a corner. He ordered his food, propped his booted feet up on a chair and leaned back. While waiting for the food he rested his head against the wall and closed his eyes. A large ceiling fan circulated the humid air and smells that settled in the dim place. The weariness and drain of a long day took its toll and he was almost fully asleep when he felt a warm hand on his arm.

“You one sleepy soldier boy. Yes?” The girl said, smiling. She laid the plate of food down in front of him and he picked up the fork and started eating. She moved over behind his chair, hooked her long lithe fingers and hands into his muscled shoulders, and began to massage them; making deep penetrating circles, working down his back.

“I make you feel better?”

He had to admit the massage felt good, and she was something to look at with her long, cinnamon colored hair flowing down her back, locks draped over her bare shoulders. Her eyes were a translucent steel-gray. The tight, short red skirt crept seductively up her thighs as they moved in rhythm with her forearms.

“Just here for the chow, sweetheart.” he said, smiling. “You don’t look like other girls I’ve seen around here. Are you Vietnamese, or…?” He said between bites.

“My father. He was French man. Come here with French militia. My mother, part Chinese, part Vietnamese. My name, Suki. It …how you say in your country, nickname?”

“Yes. Cool name. Uh…Listen Suki, I didn’t come here for…well, you know, the entertainment.”

“What your name?”

“Scott. And thank you for the massage, but…I have to hurry and get back.”

“That O.K. Maybe, I see you again?” She glanced over towards the bar at the bartender ‘boss’ with the snarly, screwed up face, watching her.

“Bye, Scott. Have other customers waiting.”

He nodded, and watched her make her way back to the men hanging over the bar. She used her practiced approach on another, and minutes later they headed up the dark stairway to a room upstairs, his arms wrapped around her like an octopus.

There was a sense of longing and loneliness, an emptiness and deep ache in the pit of his stomach. He wanted only to be back home in Seattle with Jennifer. He hated this place, this war, the country, the constant monsoons, and stinking town.

It had only been a week since he last wrote Jennifer, but he would write again when he got back to the barracks. He hoped his letters were getting home.

Ten minutes later the soldier came down the stairs, rumpled, looking content.

As he walked back to base a transport helicopter touched down. The bodies of dead soldiers were being unloaded, identified and carefully placed into body bags, their personal belongings collected, and placed into smaller bags with identification tags. It all seemed so cold, so routine anymore. Unload, identify, match up, zip up the body or remains, and send home.

One soldier stood by, anxiously waiting, watching. Grime and grit covered his face and bloody uniform. His eyes looked wild, fearful, as if still out in the bush. He grasped the shirt of his friend.

“Smithy! We’re here. They’re going to fix you up. Hang on. I’ll make sure they take real good care of you. Smithy! Did you hear me?” Shaking Smithy, he pleaded, “Smithy?”

He looked up at the medic. “You will, won’t you? Work on him right away?”

Smithy’s body went limp, his eyes glazed over, staring up at no one, nothing. They just stared. His body was lifted off and laid with other still, lifeless bodies.

The medic turned to the soldier, and said, “Look man, he’s gone. I’m sorry. We have to get him unloaded so we can get to the wounded that need immediate attention. Smithy will be taken care of. Why don’t you help me collect his things and we’ll get him ready for the trip home. What’s your name fella?”

The soldier was quiet for a while. He wiped his dirty sleeve across his face, as if trying to wake up from a bad dream. “Rakowski. Sam Rakowski. Smithy always called me ‘Rack’. He said I could shoot the rack off a running bull moose. I like to hunt. We were good at it. Together, hunting the Cong. We got a lot of em, Smithy and I.”

The medic just nodded. All of them casualties.

Looking over at Smithy’s lifeless body, ‘Rack’ asked, “What am I going to do now? Who’s going to help me hunt the Cong?”

Scott was suddenly thankful he was not in that unit. He walked back to the broken down jeep. Maybe Mac was still cleaning engine parts.

_________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson

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